Sunday, July 06, 2003

5th July: Independence for St. Paul's!
St. Paul's carnival was everything a street festival should be; it was meandering, chaotic and packed with energy. While there were the inevitable bits of corporate sponsorship (this year it was Western Union money transfer, as even with poorer immigrant communities; there's money to be made! And before anyone complains about how useful their support is, I know the arguments about corporate citizenship, I'm just making an observation.) In my eyes, as a St. Paul's resident, the event was a success, there was much autonomy and spontinaety about the festival that embodies the direct spirit of the place the event's namesake. On the main street of the event, Grosvenor Road there was a vast array of stalls selling everything from Malcolm X posters to Goat Curry. At the head of the road was a large festival stage, on the green, where one of the youngest MCs I have ever seen got the crowd moving with a display of very youthful talent and confidence. Big-up to him! Further down, next to the Inkerman pub, we had the Ghetto Force sound system, which if you just passed by sounded overly distorted and strained, but if you'd stopped to take it in and moved off the road into the path of the speakers, you'd have heard the sound as it was intended; full-on and ragga. The sounds were a tidal wave of records with frequent punctuations of MC commentary to get the crowd motivated and moving.

Meanwhile, St. Agnes park hosted a BBC car and a whole host of kids activity as the place hummed with activity from the tiny-tot army who were busy bouncing, dancing, yelling and painting. Here was also more jerk chicken and more ginger beer and wood carving.

To anyone taking the scene in, there were also stories to be gleaned; the petition of Mr. Selburn Watson, a pensioner who's now living in a tent after being kicked out of his home in Denbigh Street. He was sitting in a tree watching those signing for action from the council on his behalf. There was the return of the well loved techo-crew Species blasting-out in the car park of Malcolm X centre, the talk was that the crew were rumored to triumphantly returning to play a gig at the newly re-opened New Trinity.

Over in the community erected stone circle by Dutty Ken's pub, the Star & Garter, there was a 'Disinformation Tent' where the public could announce; "Could people please refrain from sitting on the grass." The speaker gravely announced this to the hundred or so people sitting on the grass. Fortunately, having been rendered immune to disinformation during Gulf War II, most of the people didn't move, though the announcement that tickets were needed to use the toilets in the pub caused some mirth and panic in equal measure.

The autonomy of the community was inspiring to see; the local residents selling food, drink and clothing to the thronged crowd of newcomers, indulging it a little redistribution of the wealth from Clifton to St. Paul's. Davy Street residents had turned the whole road into one giant party for the day and up and down the area people created their own spaces to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts; blasting gabba in the driveway on Ashley Road, the plant sale to raise money for the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan in Lower Cheltenham Place (find more out at as they are warning that the US is negotiating with the Taliban with the view to controling the country by returning them to power!)

Yup, St. Paul's carnival was just that; the flavor of St. Paul's with all it's diverse glory and the day we see a Starbucks or McDonalds stall replacing the jerk chicken kitchens at this event, is the day the event looses the St. Paul's bit and becomes just another calender event. Long may it stay!

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